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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Charles I. 1637 - 1649 Part C


1643, Nov
‘There came to Aberdeen ane Doctor Pont [hus], who had some stage plays, whilk drew the people to behold the sport; syne, upon the stage sold certain balms, oils, and other physical ointments, whereof he made great gain. Thereafter he went north to other burghs, and did the like.’—Spal.

If it were allowable to use the language of the day, we might say that the devil had at this time broken out in unusual activity. Accordingly, the public authorities had not only to prepare an army for the aid of the parliament against the king in England, and make vigorous crusades in Strathbogie and other over-loyal districts, but to meet the powers of darkness with all the terrors of the criminal law. The number of old women who suffered for offending at once against the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 73d act of the ninth parliament of Queen Mary, in Fife alone, was thirty. One noted case was that of Agnes Finnie, a poor woman dealing in small articles at the Potterrow Port in Edinburgh, who was convicted and burned in 1644. Mr Charles K. Sharpe has presented us with the articles of her dittay, and as they afford a highly characteristic picture of the acts then attributed to a witch, and give some curious glimpses of the private life of the period, I make no apology for transferring them to these pages.

‘Having threatened Mr William Fairlie’s son to send him halting hame, because, going by her door, he, in a nickname, called her Annit Winnie, he within twenty-four hours after, lost the power of his left side by her witchcraft, and languished in so incurable a disease, that the whole physicians called it supernatural, and the haill substance of his body ran out at his cute [ankle]; and the boy laid the whole wyte [blame] of his death constantly upon the panel.

‘She laid upon Beatrix Nisbet a fearful disease, so that she lost the power of her tongue! because she paying the said Agnes two dollars owing her by her father, would not give her annual rent [interest] therefor. She laid a grievous sickness upon Jonet Grinton, whom ye threatened that she should never eat more in this world, because she had brought again two herring she had bought from you, they not being caller [fresh], and sought back her eight pennies. [two-thirds of a penny sterling], and of which she died, without eating or drinking conform to your threatening.

‘Ye came in to visit John Buchanan’s bairn, being sick of a palsy, and bade the, father and mother go ben the house [remove to the inner apartment] a while and pray to God for him; and in the meanwhile ye stayed with him, and when they returned, they fand him violently sick that he could neither stir hand nor foot, and that by your devilry; and fand on his right buttock about the breadth of one’s loof, the same so sore as if a collop had been ta’en out of it; and he died in eight days in great dolour.

‘Falling a scolding with Betty Currie, the said bairn’s mother, about the changing of a sixpence which ye alleged to be ill, ye, in great rage, threatened that ye should gar [cause] the devil tak a bite of her. Ye laid a grievous sickness on her husband, John Buchanan, that he burned a whole night as if he had been in a fire, for taking his wife Betty Currie’s part against you, and boasting [threatening] to cast you over the stair, and calling you a witch; whereon ye threatened to make him repent his speeches; and for taking the same off him, he coming the next day and drinking a pint of ale with you, and telling you that if you tormented him so another night, he should make all the town hear tell of it; whereon he was weel. The said John being offended at you because ye would not trust his wife a twelvepenny cake [penny roll], ye bade him go his way, and as he had begun with witches, so he should end; after which threatening, he straight contracted a long and grievous sickness, whereof he was like to melt away in sweating.

‘In your scolding with Euphame Kincaid, ye calling her a drunkard, and she calling you a witch, ye replied: "That if ye was a witch, she and hers should have better cause to call ye so;" accordingly, a great joist fell on the said Euphame’s daughter’s leg, being playing near your house, and crushed the same, and that by your sorcery.

‘Ye, ending an account with Isobel Acheson, and because ye could not get all your unreasonable demands, bade the devil ride about the town with her and hers; whereupon, the next day, she brake her leg by a fall from a horse, and ye came and saw her, and said: "See that ye say not that I have bewitched you, as other neighbours say."

‘Robert Watt, deacon of the cordwainers, having fined Robert Pursell, your son-in-law, for a riot, ye came where he and the rest of the craft were convened, and cursed them most outrageously, whereon Robert Watt broke the cap upon your head; since which time he fell away in his worldly means, till long after, he being in your good-son’s house, where ye likewise was, ye asked "if he remembered since he broke the cap on your head? and that he had never thriven since, nor should, till you had amends of him;" whereon, he being reconciled with you, he prospered in his worldly state as before.

‘The laying on of a grievous sickness on Christian Harlaw, for sending back a plack’s worth of salt which ye had sent her, it being too little; ye having threatened her that it should be the dearest salt that ever she saw with her eyes, and then, at her entreaty, ye came to her house, and she became presently weel; whereon Christian said, that "if ought ailed her thereafter, she should wyte [blame] you." Christian Simpson being owing you some money, and because she craved only eight days’ delay to pay it, ye threatened in great rage, that "she should have a sore heart ere that day eight days;" according whereto, the said Christian’s husband broke his leg within the said eight days.

‘John Robison, having called you a witch, you, in malice, laid a flux on him by your sorcery. Appearing to John Cockburn in the night, when both doors and windows were fast closed, and terrifying him in his sleep, because he had discorded with your daughter the day before. Causing all William Smith’s means to evanish, to the intent he might never be able to relieve some clothes he had pawned beside you, worth an 100 lb., for 14 merks Scots only. Onlaying a grievous sickness on Janet Walker lying in childbed.; and then ye being sent for, and the said Janet’s sister begging her health at you for God’s sake, ye assented, and she recovered of her sickness presently by your sorcery.

‘Being disappointed of having Alexander Johnston’s bairn’s flame, ye, in a great rage and anger, told him, that "it should be telling him 40 lb. betwixt and that time twelvemonth, that he had given you his bairn’s name;" whereon he took a strange sickness, and languished long; and at length, by persuasive of neighbours, he came to your house, and after he had eaten and drunken with you, ye with your sorcery made him whole. Item, the child whose name ye got not was past eleven years ere he could go.

‘Having fallen in a controversy with Margaret Williamson, ye most outrageously wished the devil to blow her blind; after which she by your sorcery took a grievous sickness, whereof she went blind. Laying a madness on Andrew Wilson, conform to your threatening, wishing the devil to rive the soul out of him (which words, the time of his frenzy, were never out of his mouth), and that because he had fallen in a brawling with your daughter. Item, for taking off it.

‘Bearing company with the devil these twenty-eight years by-past; for consulting with him for laying on and taking off diseases, as weel on men as women and bestial; which is notourly known.’

It clearly appears that this woman had, at the utmost, been guilty of bad wishes towards her neighbours, and that if these had any effect, it was only through their superstitious apprehensions. We may suppose such to be the type of a class of cases—the simply maledictory. It is fairly presumable, however, that, while the community was so ignorant as to believe that malediction could have positively injurious effects, it would occasionally have these effects by its influence on the imagination, and consequently become an active evil. In this we can see a possible cause of the long persistence of the belief in witches. The ignorant, seeing an effect, and not observing the influence of the imagination in the case, would of course find no objection to laying it all to the account of witchcraft. The enlightened, again, disbelieving witchcraft, but at the same time ignorant of the influence of imagination,  would have no alternative but to deny the facts; and this unreasoning and unsound scepticism, being contrary to the experience of the ignorant, would fall to disabuse them of their superstitions.

In this year (December 31, 1643) is an entry in the parish register of Markinch, Fifeshire—’ Compeared Janet Brown, and being posed if she used charms, she confessed that she did charm two several persons—Viz., James Hullock and Janet Scott, but no moe. The words of the charm are these:

"Our Lord forth raide,
His foal’s foot slade:
Our Lord down lighted,
His
foal’s foot righted;
Saying: Flesh to flesh, blood to blood, and bane to bane,
In our Lord his name."

Being posed who learned her the foresaid charm, answered, ane man in the parish of Strathmiglo.’

There is reason to believe that this is a charm of great antiquity for the healing of bruises and sprains.

The faith in necromantic power being wholly a part of the religious earnestness of the time, it is only to be expected that the clergy should appear deeply interested in prosecutions of this class, and sedulous that suspected persons should be duly tried and the guilty brought to punishment. In October 1644, Margaret Young, spouse of William Morison, merchant in Dysart, described herself, in a petition to the Privy Council, as having lain miserably in prison for ten weeks, in consequence of a false accusation got up against her as ‘a consulter of spirits,’ by a few neighbours acting under a feeling of ‘spleen and envy,’ ‘albeit she is ane honest young woman, of good reputation, without any scandal or blot, and never knew nothing of that is put to her charge.’ She had petitioned the Privy Council to have the bailies and ministers of Dysart summoned before them, and ordained to set her at liberty; and on an appointed day, one of the ministers came forward, and craved to have a longer time ‘to see if any dittay sould be given in against her? Even that time was now expired, and yet, with no charge against her, she continued to languish in her wretched imprisonment. The lords agreed to liberate Margaret, on her husband giving security to the extent of five hundred merks, that she would compear if afterwards called upon.— P. C. R.

In the ensuing mouth—so frequent were accusations of witchcraft at this time—one Margaret Thomson, wife of Alexander Gray in Calder, complained before the same tribunal, against the Tutor of Calder and the minister of that parish, for ‘waking her the space of twenty days naked, and having nothing on her but a sackcloth,’ under a charge of witchcraft. She had been ‘laid in the stocks, and kept separate from all company and worldly comfort;’ nor could she ‘see any end of her misery by lawful trial.’ The lords, having the woman’s husband before them, and also the tutor and minister, and no regular charge being forthcoming, ordained her to be liberated upon security.

1644, July 7
(Sunday) A solemn fast and humiliation was kept throughout Scotland, on account of backsliding from the Covenant, and the prevalence of vice and godlessness; as also to entreat the favour of Heaven for the parliamentary arms, and to pray for the filling of the king’s heart with the love of reformation. A fast in those days was a reality. In Old Aberdeen, the people entered the church at nine o’clock, and continued hearing prayers and sermons till two. They might have then dismissed for a space, but they sat still hearing ‘reading’ till the commencement of afternoon service, which ended at six. Then the bell rang for evening-prayers, which continued till seven. ‘Thus was the people wearied with fasting and praying, under colour of zeal, whilk rather appeared a plain mockery of God.’ On the ensuing Thursday, a similar fast was kept, when the king and queen were prayed for, in a manner, it may be suspected, for which their majesties would not be duly thankful. ‘No prayer to confound the armies raised against him, but rather prayer for their good success.’—
Spal.

Sep
Immediately after Montrose had gained his first victory at Tippermuir, and while his army lay at Collace, in Perthshire, his adherent, Lord Kilpont, eldest son of the Earl of Airth, lost his life in a lamentable manner. His friend and associate in arms, James Stewart of Ardvoirlich, had been incensed at some outrages committed on his lands by the Irish auxiliaries under Alaster Macdonald or MaeCol-keitoch, while they were advancing to join Montrose. He had complained to Montrose, had had a violent altercation with Alaster MacCol, and it had been found necessary to place both him and MacCol under arrest. This step was taken at the recommendation of Lord Kilpont. To pursue the narrative of a descendant of Stewart: ‘Montrose, seeing the evil of such a feud at such a critical time, effected a sort of reconciliation between them, and forced them to shake hands in his presence; when it was said that Ardvoirlich, who was a very powerful man, took such a hold of Macdonald’s hand as to make the blood start from his fingers. Still, it would appear, Ardvoirlich was by no means reconciled.

‘A few days after the battle of Tippermuir, when Montrose with his army encamped at Collace, an entertainment was given by him to his officers, in honour of the victory he had obtained, and Kilpont and his comrade Ardvoirlich were of the party. After returning to their quarters, Ardvoirlich, who seemed still to brood over his quarrel with Macdonald, and being heated with drink, began to blame Lord Kilpont for the part he had taken in preventing his obtaining redress, and reflecting against Montrose for not allowing him what he considered proper reparation. Kilpont of course defended the conduct of himself and his relative Montrose, till their arguments came to high words; and, finally, from the state they were both in, by an easy transition to blows, when Ardvoirlich with his dirk struck Kilpont dead on the spot. He immediately fled, and under cover of a thick mist escaped pursuit, leaving his eldest son, Henry, who had been mortally wounded at Tippermuir, on his death-bed." [On the 8th of June 1643, a case came before the Privy counciI, at the instance of Lawrence Mercer and others, students at St Andrews, who complained of a scandalous charge got up against them by James Stewart of Ardvoirlich and his two sons, Robert and Harry, to the effect that umwhile Alexander Stewart, son of the first party, and brother of the two others, had received deadly injuries from them in a college tumult, and died in consequence. It was shewn that Alexander had provoked a tumult by his insolent speeches, and afterwards lay for a day or two in bed, but was found on inspection to be quite well, and he had lived in good health for nine months after. The lords accordingly declared the complainers to be innocent of what was laid to their charge.]

This story will be generally recognised as one which has supplied some leading incidents in the Legend of Montrose. The present version of it, more favourable in some features to Ardvoirlich than that which occurs in Wishart’s Life of Montrose, was communicated to Sir Walter Scott in 1830 by Robert Stewart of Ardvoirlich, who stated that it had come to his father from a man who lived to a hundred years of age, the great-grandson of the homicide laird by a natural son, who was present with him at the time of the deplorable incident.

Oct
After the taking of Newcastle in this month by the Scottish Covenanting army, ‘the pest’ came from that place [In a curious and rare pamphlet, by William Lithgow, descriptive of the siege of Newcastle (Edinburgh, printed by Robert Bryson, 1645), we get some idea of the wretched state to which the place was reduced in consequence of its investiture of several months. ‘We found great penury and scarcity of victuals, ammunition, and other necessaries within that dejected town; so that they could not have held out ten days longer, unless the one half had devoured the other. The plague was raging in Gateside, Sandside, Sunderland, and many country villages about.’ For this reason, Tynemonth was obliged to surrender also; ‘the pestilence having been five weeks there with a great mortality, they were glad to yield and to scatter themselves abroad, bnt to the great undoing and infecting of the country about.’ Lithgow, by the way, was dissatisfied with the treatment of Newcastle by his countrymen. ‘As they abused their victory,’ says he, ‘in storming the town, with too much undeserved mercy, so they as unwisely and imprudently overreached themselves, in plundering the town with an
ignorant negligence and careless omission. . .. And as they thus defrauded themselves with a whistle in their mouths, so they pitifully prejudged, by this their inveigled course, the common soldiers of their just due and dear-bought advantages.’] into Scotland, where it met a field highly calculated for its diffusion. There had been dearth the preceding year from deficient harvest, and since then, what with the drawing away of men for the army, the grievance of a heavy excise to support it, the incessant harassment of many districts by hostile and plundering armies, and the extreme anxiety and distress of mind occasioned by the civil war, assisted, doubtless, by the generally depressing effect of incessant preachings, prayings, fastings, and thanksgivings, by which the whole sunshine of life was, as it were, squeezed out of the community—those vital powers which resist and beat off disease must have been reduced to a point much below average. It is not surprising, therefore, that the plague took deadly hold of the country, and rapidly spread from Edinburgh to Borrowstounness, Kelso, Perth, and other towns, all of which were grievously afflicted by it during the next year.

1645
Of the ecclesiastical discipline of this period, and its bearing upon the habits of the people, we get a good idea from the Presbytery Record of Strathbogie, which has been published by the Spalding Club. The whole moral energy of the country appears as concentrated in an effort to fix a certain code of theological views, including a rigid observance of the Sabbath, the suppression of witchcraft, the maintenance of a serious style of manners, and the extirpation of popery.

A committee of the presbytery made periodical visits to the several parishes, called the minister and chief parishioners before them, and examined the parties separately as to each other’s spiritual condition and religious practice. For example, at Rhynie, the minister, Henry Ross, being removed, the elders were sworn and interrogated as to his efficiency. They ‘all in ane voice deponed that concerning his literature he was very weak, and gave them little or no comfort in his ministry; but, as concerning his life, he was mended, and was blameless now in his conversation.’ The elders being in their turn removed, the minister was called in and examined regarding them. He ‘regretted that the parishioners frequented not the church, nor assisted him in his discipline, but despised him.'

To be absent any considerable number of times from church was punishable; and if the parishioner proved contumacious, he was liable to be excommunicated—a doom inferring a loss of all civil rights, and a complete separation from human converse. To refuse to take the Covenant, or to have any dealings with the loyalist Huntly, brought men into similar troubles. Old women using charms for healing, persons ‘kindling needfire’ for the cure of cattle, or reserving a field for the devil (the Guidman’s Croft), and females pilgrimising to holy wells, according to old custom, were all vigorously proceeded against, in obedience to refrated acts of the General Assembly for uprooting of all superstition. Irregularities between the sexes, and even quarrelling and scolding, had to be expiated in sackcloth before the congregation. Drunkenness and swearing were also censured. In dealing with these offences, an unsparing inquisition into domestic and family matters was used, and no rank, age, or sex seems to have afforded the subject any protection.

As specimens of religious offences—a gentleman was prosecuted for bringing home a millstone on a Sunday; another, for gathering gooseberries in time of sermon. It was found regarding Patrick Wilson, that he had sat up with a company drinking till after cockcrow, consuming in all eleven pints—that is, about two dozen quart bottles—of ale; he had struck a man, and railed in his drink at several gentlemen of the parish. ‘The brethren ordained Patrick to stand in sackcloth two Sabbaths, and pay four merks penalty.’

The Lady Frendraught,’ who now lived at Kinnairdie, in the parish of Aberchirder, is a conspicuous subject of the discipline of the Strathbogie presbytery, on account of her being a papist. To leave this inoffensive lady in the quiet exercise of her own religious forms was not within the capabilities of the Christian charity of that day. It is no over-statement of the case that this ecclesiastical body set themselves to simply harass her out of her peculiar convictions - or rather professions; for they seem to have been content when they could effect an external conformity, and the horrible guilt of forcing a fellow-creature into a mere hypocrisy, seems never to have been present to their minds.

So early as 1636, the synod had sent one of their number to deal with her, and induce her to go to church; for a time she conformed. Two years after, a similar visitation of the lady had become necessary; so she and her daughter Elizabeth were summoned for ‘not hearing of the word, and not communicating.’ What came of this does not appear; but in 1643, a deputation of ministers was sent to deal with her according to the ordinance of the General Assembly, and to report her answer. It was soon after reported that ‘she promised to hear the word, and desired a time for further resolution.’ It was then agreed to give her some short space to decide on becoming ‘a daily hearer,’ but ‘if she refused, the process to go on against her.’ The poor lady once more promised ‘to hear the word, as she had done before,’ and it was resolved to ask the advice of the General Assembly on the point. Years passed on, without bringing her further than to agree to go to the church which her husband frequented—which was out of the bounds of this presbytery. What immediately happened after this does not appear; but, on the presbytery resolving (January 1647) again to proceed against her ladyship, it was reported that she was out of the country. A few months later, the commissioners of the General Assembly ‘granted her liberty to be ane ordinar hearer of the word at Forgue for a time.’ This, however, did not stop the process. The lady was hunted into another presbytery, where she seems to have kept them at bay for a little while. In June 1648, Mr John Reidford reported that he had spoken her, but ‘found no effect of his travels;’ he required further time. Soon after, the same minister reported that on a second interview, she expressed herself as ‘willing to bear the word in any kirk save Aberchirder and such as are within the presbytery of Stratbbogie.’ This was not to be endured. She was immediately summoned as a contumacious person. On the day of call, she ‘compeared not;’ and Mr John Reidford, her parish minister, proceeded to give from his pulpit, on successive Sundays, a series of three admonitions addressed to her; then, in like manner, a series of three prayers. As her ladyship continued to disregard all proceedings in her case, the presbytery prepared itself to pass the awful doom of excommunication, when, behold! another act of concession on her part stays all: she agrees to be present at family worship in her own house—her husband was all this time a leading Covenanter and promised also to hear sermon; whereupon the sentence was suspended for a time. In August 1649, the minister Reidford reported that she had ‘keepit sermon at Innerkeithing the last Lord’s day, and daily keepit family worship.’ This was not enough. They instruct Reidford ‘to shew her that, if she did not conform in all points, the sentence of excommunication would be pronounced before the next assembly.’ Reidford soon after pleaded for her, that she had heard three sermons; but the brethren ‘thought not that kind of bearing satisfactory.’ They ordained him to put her to a decided test at once, by offering her the Covenant: failing her subscribing that, Reidford was to pronounce sentence.

The lady, with the ingenuity of her sex, contrived once more to put them off—she told Reidford she would take a thought about it. Meanwhile, she amused them with hopes by continuing to attend church; telling them ‘she was not fully satisfied for subscribing the Covenant.’ But even female wit could not bold out for ever against such a siege. In June 1650, after an incessant harassment of fourteen years, she gave them ‘satisfaction’ by subscribing the Covenant, and thus abjuring in words the faith she still held in her heart. Little more than two years had elapsed, when the presbytery learned that she had ‘relapsed to popery,’ and appointed commissioners to confer with her on the subject. It was found she was now obstinate in her original belief ‘professing, moreover, that she repented of her former repentance more than of any sin that ever she committed, and thought that she had reason to repent all her lifetime for subscribing the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant.’ Then took place a renewal of the same tedious dealings with the lady, ending at last in 1654, in a peremptory order for her excommunication. By that time, however, excommunication had lost much of its terrors, as Cromwell, then master of Scotland, would not allow the sentence to have any consequences in respect of civil rights.

Many traits of barbarous manners occur in the record, shewing that the clergy had somewhat rough materials to deal with, in their efforts to build up a perfect system. Many offences of a violent, and even sanguinary character, are noticed. There were also several persons so far left to a wicked nature as to hold the dicta of the reverend presbytery itself in contempt. For instance, John Tulloch, on being summoned regarding an irregularity with Elspeth Gordon, answered, ‘the devil a care cared he for their excommunication; excommunicate him the morn [to-morrow] if they pleased.’ Three witnesses attested regarding James Middleton, that, on his being rebuked by the minister, they heard him say that ‘he cared not for him, nor any minister in Scotland;’ and when the minister threatened to put him in the jougs, they heard him say that ‘neither he nor the best minister within seven miles durst do so much.’ One William Gordon, in Dumbennan parish, declined (June 1652) the authority of the presbytery, in consideration of the many sad experiences he had had of the usurpation of civil power by the Presbyterian government, and its ‘tyrannous persecuting of men’s consciences who, out of tender scruples, did differ from their opinions in matters indifferent and circumstantial; as also, finding that the greatest part of their prayer and preaching doth more tender the advancement of their private interest and faction than the propagation of the gospel; and seeing their frequent railing against the authority and civil power which God hath set over us, whereby the people’s minds are kept unsettled and averse from the cordial union of both nations, which, by God’s great mercy, we are now like to enjoy.’ He declared himself separate from them, and that he would ‘no more esteem of their excommunication than they did formerly of the pope.’ On sentence of excommunication being passed on this recusant, ‘he lookit very frowardly, and uttered himself most proudly and maliciously.’

The opinion of the royalist party regarding the general condition of the nation at the time when the Covenanting spirit was at its height is sketched by one of their number. ‘Seven years,’ says he, ‘had this terrible distemper of the unparalleled Covenant ruled, or rather overruled this kingdom. It was now grown to ane height, and had cast this nation in a new mould, for the laws were rolled up in oblivion, the College of Justice was discharged from sitting, and over all the land the ordinary seats of justice were no more frequented, only the private committees in every shire and county ordained what they list, and must not be controlled, under pain of a fearful plunder. Nor was it right or wrong that must be decided by these committees, but grievous exactions and heavy subsidies, with new stents, almost every quarter, of horse and foot levies.... The poor was not pitied nor the rich respected; the good man was not remembered nor the virtuous man rewarded: only the soldier was in esteem and enriched, who could murder, kill, and oppress.’—Pa. Gordon.

At the same time, the general expressions of the church of the day involve heavy charges against the clergy themselves, partly founded perhaps on actual offences in their case, and partly the result merely of the disposition to think every grace of poor human nature insufficient, in comparison with the ideal religious standard set up. Thus we find the Commissioners of the General Assembly denouncing ‘the enormities and corruptions observed to be in the ministry,’ and making out a list which is difficult to reconcile with our ideas of the boasted golden age of the Scottish Presbyterian polity. There is ‘much fruitless conversing in company,’ ‘great worldliness,’ ‘slighting of God’s worship in families,’ ‘want of gravity in carriage and apparel,’ ‘tippling and bearing company in untirneous drinking in taverns,’ ‘discountenancing of the godly,’ even a want of decent observance of the Sabbath. ‘There are also to he found amongst us [some] who use small and minced oathes.’

Feb 13
Notwithstanding the high pressure exercised by the kirk at this time in matters of discipline, we have ample evidence that there were many sad and pestilent escapes of human nature, occasioning infinite distress to sessions, presbyteries, and assemblies. There was one old popular institution, called the Penny Bridal, which has been under notice before, as producing a suspicious amount of happiness among the commonalty. The General Assembly now saw proper to launch a solemn act against these merry assemblies, ordaining the presbyteries to put them under the severest restrictions.

Two years after, February 7, 1647, the presbyteries of Haddington and Dunbar are found taking measures for putting this act in force; and from their proceedings, we incidentally learn how far the late religious fervours were from decidedly reforming or purifying manners. Multitudes exceeding twenty assembled on these occasions. The paying of extravagant sums—sums exceeding 12s. for a man and 8s. for a woman (that is, one shilling and eightpence respectively)—caused great immoralities—’ piping and dancing before and after dinner or supper,’ drinking after dinner, and so forth. ‘Moreover, loose speeches, singing of licentious songs, and profane minstrelling, in time of dinner or supper, tends to great deboshry.’ ‘Through all which causes, penny bridals, in our judgment, become seminaries of all profanation.’ They therefore ordained that not above twenty persons should ever gather on such occasions; that the men should never give above a shilling, and the women eightpence; and that all piping, dancing, singing, and loose speeches, should cease. To make sure that these rules should be observed, it was further ordained that a pair about to marry and to hold a penny bridal, should not have the ceremony performed till they had lodged twenty pounds or other guarantee, to be forfeited in the event of disobedience.’

Feb 27
The arrangements for the maintenance of a militia in Scotland were fixed by the Estates. Each county and burgh was ordered to raise and maintain a certain number of foot-soldiers (exclusive of horse), according to their respective amounts of population, at £9 Scots per month for each man. The lists are curious, as informing us of the assumed comparative population of the several counties and burghs in that age.

COUNTIES.—Aberdeen, 727; Ayr, 674; Argyle, 323; Banff, 159; Berwick, 395; Bute, 51; Caithness, 105; Clackmannan, 58; Cromarty, 11; Dumbarton, 137; Dumfries, 494; Edinburgh, 463; Elgin, 210; Fyfe, 738; Forfar, 556; Haddington, 376; Inverness, 464; Kincardine, 174; Kinross, 16; Lanark, 598; Linlithgow, 194; Nairn, 35; Peebles, 182; Perth, 889; Renfrew, 245; Roxburgb, 642; Selkirk, 142; Stirling, 282; Sutherland, 47; Wigton and Kirkcudbright, 486. BURGHS.—Aberdeen, 160; Aberbrothock, 10; Ayr, 41; Annan, 3; Anstruther Easter, 31; Anstruther Wester, 6; Banff, 8; Brechin, 20; Burntisland, 16; Crail, 24; Cupar, 24; Culross, 12; Cullen, 4; Dumfries, 44; Dunbar, 12; Dumbarton, 12; Dunfermline, 12; Dundee, 186; Dysart, 30; Edinburgh, 574; Elgin, 20; Forfar, 6; Forres, 6; Galloway, 1; Glasgow, 110; Haddington, 36; Jedburgh, 18; Inverkeithing, 10; Inverness, 40; Irvine, 23; Kilrenny, 3; Kinghorn, 14; Kirkcaldy, 46; Kirkcudbright, 20; Lanark, 16; Lauder, 5; Linlithgow, 30; Lochmaben, 3; Montrose, 53; Nairn, 4; North Berwick, 4; Peebles, 10; Perth, 110; Pittenweem, 15; Queensferry, 7; Renfrew, 10; Rothesay, 5; Rutherglen, 5; Sanquhar, 3; St Andrews, 60; Selkirk, 10; Stirling, 36; Tain, 12; Wigton, 15; Whithorn, 5.

The total number is, for counties, 9873; for burghs, 1879— total, 11,772. If we assume that the aim was to call out one soldier for every sixty souls, the. entire population would be 706,320. Edinburgh would have 34,440 inhabitants; Glasgow and Perth, each 6600; Stirling and Haddington, each 2160; Ayr, 2460; Dundee, 11,160: Inverness, 2400; St Andrews, 3600; Dumfries, 2640; Montrose, 3180; &c.

Apr 1
‘This day, Kelso, with the haill houses, corns, barns, barn-yards, burnt by fire, caused by a clenging of ane of the houses thereof whilk was infected with the plague.’—Hope’s Diary.

The pest appears by this time to have reached Edinburgh. The Town Council agreed (April 10) with Joannes Paulitius, M.D., that he should visit the infected at a salary of eighty pounds Scots per month. A great number of people affected by the malady were quartered in huts in the King’s Park; others were kept at home; and for the relief of these, the aid of the charitable was invoked from the pulpits. The session of the Holyroodhouse or Canongate parish ordained (June 27) that ‘to avoid contention in this fearful time,’ those who should die in the Park ‘shall be buried therein, and not within the church-yard, except they mortified (being able to do so) somewhat ad pios usus, for the relief of the other poor, being in extreme indigence.’

The Estates, then sitting in Edinburgh, were pleased (August 2) to order five hundred bolls of meal to be given from the public magazine ‘for relief of the poor of Leith, which are sorely visited with the pestilence.’—Bal.

Under the pressing exigencies caused by the epidemic, the Town Council of Edinburgh came to the resolution (August 13) of liberating those confined for debt in the Tolbooth, obtaining first the consent of creditors. They retained, however, several political prisoners, particularly the Earl of Crawford and Lord Ogilvie, who had signalised themselves by their fidelity to the king. A few weeks after, Montrose having at Kilsyth overthrown the last militia army that had been mustered against him, came to Bothwell, and thence despatched a letter to the Edinburgh magistrates, demanding the liberation of these captives, under threats of fire and sword; and they then completed their jail delivery. The marquis was solely prevented by the plague from advancing and taking possession of the city.

Among the regulations established during the time of this pestilence was one for preventing people from travelling into any district suspected of being under the influence of the disease. We find it proclaimed, for example, in the parish kirk of Humbie, August 10, ‘that none presume, either masters or servants, men or women, to go out of the bounds that they dwell, upon whatsomever errand or business, to any suspected place, without special leave of the masters of the ground.’ If any transgressed this order, ‘they saIl not be received back to their own houses or dwellings, but their houses sall be locked and closed up.’ No stranger could be received into a house without ‘liberty from the masters of the ground and the kirk-session conjointly."

On this occurrence of the plague, a Scotch gentleman is found copying and sending to a friend the following specific for the disease, an invention of Dr Burgess:

‘Tak three mutchkins of Malvoysie, and ane handfull of red sage, and a handfull of rue, and boil them till a mutchkin be wasted. Then strain it, and set it over the fire again; then put thereinto ane pennyworth of long pepper, half ane of ginger, and ane quarter of ane unce of nutmegs, all beaten together; then let it boil a little, and put thereto five pennyworth of Mithridate and two of treacle, and a quarter of a mutchkin of the best Angelic water.

‘Keep this all your ljfe, above all bodily treasures. Tak it always warm, both morning and evening, ane half spoonfull if ye be in health, and one or two if ye be infected; and sweat thereupon.

‘In all your plague-time, under God, trust to this; for there was never man, woman, nor child, that this deceived.

‘This is not only for the common plague which is called the Sickness, but also for the small-pox, missles, surfeat, apd divers other diseases.’

It is understood that those who died by the plague were usually buried in places apart from churchyards, from an apprehension that the infection might burst out and spread, if the graves should be reopened. We find that the Estates ordained (August 4), ‘since that it pleased God to call the Laird of Craigies of the pest, who was lodged in the sheriff-clerk’s house, that these that are within the house shall inter him in a remote place of the ordinary burial-place of the town.’—Bal. In the parish of Cramond, there are four graves of victims of the plague, in solitary situations; two of them at a place called the Whinny Haugh, in King’s Cramond Park, marked with small head-stones, on which are these inscriptions: ‘Here lies Janet Dalmahoy, who deceased the 20th of October 1647,’ and ‘Here lies John D—, who died the 20th of November 1647."

On this occasion, the pest lingered in the country for a considerable time. It was in full force in Glasgow towards the close of 1646. The infected were either shut up in their houses or sent out to a muir at some distance from the town. ‘December 12, compeared the haill tacksmen of the mill, ladles, tron, and brig,’ complaining to the Council that, ‘in respect of the sickness and visitation, they could get naething of their duties.’ Graves of persons who were suspected of having died of pest were ordered to be marked. The disease does not appear to have entirely ceased in Glasgow till October 1647.—M. of G.

An anecdote illustrating the terrors inspired in private circles by the plague, is related with regard to this occurrence of the disease, in the memoir of the Stewarts of Coltness by Sir Archibald Stewart Denham of Westshield, a gentleman born in 1683. Speaking of Sir Thomas Stewart, he says: ‘A remarkable incident happened him in his youth, when the pestilence broke out in Edinburgh in 1645. He with a son of Westshield, a merchant apprentice, had gone to a public-house, and received change of some money, and next day that house was shut up, as infected with the plague. This gave a strong alarm at home. James Denham was sent for, and both were strictly examined as to every circumstance. Thomas had received the money in change, and so frightened were all, that none would touch the pocket in which the money was, but at a distance; and after the pocket was cut out, it was with tongs cast in a fire, and both lads were shut up in a bed-chamber, sequestrate from all company, and had victuals at proper times handed into them. While they thus stood their quarantine, by strength of imagination or power of fancy, some fiery spots broke out on their arms and thighs, and they imagined no less than unavoidable death. They mutually lamented; Thomas had more courage and Christian resignation than his companion. "James," said he, "let us trust in God and in the family prayers, for Jesus’ sake, who, as he cures the plague of the heart, can, if we are infected, cure the most noisome disease of the body." They both went to their knees, and joined in most solemn prayer, had much spiritual comfort, and in a fortnight were set at liberty, and the family retired to the country."

As far as appears, the plague did not visit Scotland after this time—a circumstance the more remarkable, as it was so deadly in London in 1665, and even reappeared there in the ensuing year. In connection with the plague, the tale of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray has obtained a large currency in Scotland. According to a report on the subject, communicated to the Antiquarian Society in 1781 by Major Barry of Lednoch, the incident took place in the year 1666; but this is probably a mistake, arising from an assumption that the last great pestilence of London was general over the country (1665 being further mistaken for 1666). Major Barry says:

‘When I first came to Lednoch, I was shewn (in a part of my ground called the Dronoch Haugh) a heap of stones almost covered with briers, thorns, and fern, which they assured me was the burial-place of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray.

‘The tradition of the country relating to these ladies is, that Mary’s father was Laird of Lednoch, and Bessie Bell’s of Kinvaid, a place in this neighbourhood, and an intimate friendship subsisted between them: that, while Miss Bell was on a visit to Miss Gray, the plague broke out in the year 1666; in order to avoid which, they built themselves a bower about three-quarters of a mile west from Lednoch House, in a very retired and romantic place called Burn Braes, on the side of the Beanchie Burn. Here they lived for some time; but the plague raging with great fury, they caught the infection (it is said) from a young gentleman who was in love with them both. He used to bring them their provision. They died in this bower, and were buried in the Dronoch Haugh, at the foot of a bite of the same name, and near to the bank of the river Almond. The burial-place lies about half a mile west from the present house of Lednoch [now called Lyndoch].

The major adds: ‘I have removed all the rubbish from this little spot of classic ground, enclosed it with a wall, planted it round with flowering shrubs, made up the grave double, and fixed a stone in the wall, on which are engraved the names of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray.’

It will be found that while the plague raged in London in 1665, Scotland was free of it; neither is there any notice of the malady occurring in 1666, either in Lamont’s or Nicol’s Diary, where it could not have failed to be mentioned if it had occurred. It therefore seems necessary to place the story of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray under 1645.

The sad fate of the two girls became the subject of a ballad, which commenced thus:

‘Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,
They were twa bonnie lasses,
They biggit a bower on yon burn brae,
And theekit it ower wi’ rashes.’

The rest has been lost, except the concluding stanza:

‘They wadna lie in Methven kirk-yard,
Amang their gentle kin;
But they wad lie in Dronoch Haugh,
To beek fornent the sin? *

[* In a popular publication quoted below occurs the following notice of a well-known land mollusk, in connection with a traditionary story of the plague, which has long had general currency in Scotland: ‘In the woodlands, the more formidable black nude slug, the Anon or Limax den, will also be often encountered. It is a huge voracious creature, herbivorous, feeding, to Barbara’s astonishment, on tender plants; fruits, as strawberries, apples; and even turnips and mushrooms; appearing morning and evening, or after rain; suffering severely in its concealment in long droughts, and remaining torpid in winter. The gray field slug (Limax agrestis) is actually recommended to be swallowed by consumptive patients! In the town of Dundee there exists a strange traditionary story of the plague, connected with the conversion, from dire necessity of the Arionaten, or black slug, to a use similar to that which the luxurious Romans are said to have made of the great apple-snail. Two young and blooming maidens lived together at that dread time, like Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, in a remote cottage on the steep (indeed almost perpendicular) ascent of the Bonnetmaker’s Hill. Deprived of friends or support by the pestilence that walked at noonday, they still retained their good looks and healthful aspect, even when the famine had succeeded to the plague. The jaundiced eyes of the famine-wasted wretches around them were instantly turned towards the poor girls, who appeared to thrive so well whilst others were famishing. They were unhesitatingly accused of witchcraft, and had nearly fallen a prey to that terrible charge; for betwixt themselves they had sworn never to tell in words by what means they were supported, ashamed as they felt of the resource to which they had been driven; and resolved, if possible, to escape the anticipated derision of their neighbours on its disclosure. It was only when about to be dragged before their stern inquisitors, that one of the girls, drawing aside the covering of a great barrel which stood in a corner of their domicile, discovered, without violating her oath, that the youthful pair had been driven to the desperate necessity of collecting and preserving for food large quantities of these Limacinoe, which they ultimately acknowledged to have proved to them generous and even agreeable sustenance. To the credit of the times of George Wishart—a glimpse of pre-reforming enlightenment—the explanation sufficed; the young women escaped with their lives, and were even applauded for their prudence.’]

1646, Oct
A set of ‘malignants’ intruded themselves into the magistracy of Glasgow, ‘and at the very same time did the pestilence arrive in the town.’ Spreull, the town-clerk, with Mr George Porterfield and Mr John Graham, had to go to Edinburgh to complain of this intrusion before the Estates. During the winter, while they were absent, the plague was so severe, that the malignants would fain have been quit of the magistracy. ‘In February 1648,’ says Spreull, ‘having carried the point at the parliament, we came home and were reponed; whereupon, though there were several hundreds of families shut up for the sickness, yet for twenty days after, there died not so much as one person thereof, and frae thenceforth it did abate till it evanished.’

1647, Sep 17
A letter of this date, from James Morphie, tailor in Edinburgh, to the Earl of Airly, has been preserved, and is in its way a curious memorial of the past. When found a few years ago in Cortachie Castle, it contained five pieces of cloth, being, we may presume, those alluded to by the writer, and all as fresh as on the day they were cut.

‘RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD—I received your lordship’s letter, and have tried for the nearest swatches of cloths I could find, conform to the orders received, and has enclosed them in this letter, with the prices written by them. As for the Kentish cloths your lordship desired, there is few or none to be found; but we expect some to be home shortly. There is only ane swatch of Kentish cloth here, with the price thereof. Likewise receive the piece that was taken out of the tail of your lordship’s doublet. Any of thir clothes your lordship pleases, send for them by the first occasion, or [ere] they be gone. Not troubling your lordship ony forder, but rests your lordship’s humble and obedient servant, JAMES MORPHIE. From Edinburgh, the 17 day of September 1647. [Addressed] For the Right Honourable the Earl of Airly.’

The letter and pieces of cloth were placed in the Arbroath Museum.

‘Two years before this, one Captain George Scott came to Inverness, and built a ship of a prodigious bigness for bulk and burden—never such a one seen in our north seas. The carpenters he brought with him to the north, and my Lord Lovat gave him wood—fir and oak—in Dalcattack Woods. I myself was aboard of her in the Road of Kessock, April 1645, and many more, to whom it was a wonder. She set sail the day before the battle of Auldearn; and among other passengers that went in her south were—Colonel Fraser, and his lady, Christina Baillie; Hugh Fraser, younger of Clanvacky, and Andrew Fraser in Leys; also John and William Fraser in Leys. This ship rode at anchor in the river month of Nairn, when the battle of Auldearn was fought in view. Captain Scott enlarged the ship afterwards, as a frigate, for war, and sailed with her to the Straits, his brother William with him. William was made a colonel, at Venice, and his martial achievements in defence of that state against the Turks may very well admit him to be ranked amongst our worthies. He became vice-admiral to the Venetian fleet, and the bane and terror of Mussulman navigators. Whether they had gallies, galloons, or galliasses, or great war-ships, it was all one to him. He set upon all alike, saying, the more they were the more he would kill, and the stronger the rencounter should be, the greater should be his honour, and the richer his prize. He oftentimes so scourged the Archipelago of the Mussulmans, that the Ottoman power, and the very gates of Constantinople, would quake at the report of his victories; and he did so ferret them out of all the creeks of the Adriatic Gulf, and so sharply put them to it, that they hardly knew in what part of the Mediterranean they should best shelter themselves from the fury of his blows. He died in his bed of a fever, in the Isle of Candy, in 1652. He was truly the glory of his nation and country, and was honoured, after his death, with a statue of marble, which I saw, near the Rialto of Venice, April 1659.'—Fraser of Wardlaw’s MS., 1666.

1648, June
Amongst those who looked ill upon the expedition which the Duke of Hamilton was preparing for the relief of the king in England, was his Grace’s own parish minister at Hamilton, Mr James Naismith. Wodrow records, as a traditionary story, that, on the Sunday before the Duke went to England, Mr Naismith preached before his Grace on the text: ‘Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country,’ Jer. xxii. 10. The preacher said that God would regard neither dukes nor generals, and as sure as the Bible was the word of God, any who went on in a course of opposition to him, should not return in peace. ‘On the Monday after, when the duke was leaving Hamilton, there was a crowd of women looking on. Mr Naismith said: "Hold him! hold him! for you will never see his face any more." The Duke at his death in England, said he would give never so much to see his own faithful minister, Mr Naismith.’—Wod. An.

July 28
The Shorter Catechism recently framed by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, for the instruction ‘of such as are of weaker capacity,’ and which has since been in constant and universal use in Scotland, was this day sanctioned by the General Assembly, sitting in Edinburgh.

Oct 4
Oliver Cromwell paid his first visit to Edinburgh. He came hot from the destruction of the Duke of Hamilton’s semi-royalist Scotch army at Preston, designing to confer with the heads of the ultra-presbyterian party for the extinction of that kind of opposition in the northern part of the island. The Earl of Kirkcudbright and Major-general Holburn conducted him into the city, where he was lodged very handsomely in the Earl of Moray’s house in the Canongate; a strong guard of his own troops was mounted at the gate. ‘The Earl of Moray’s house,’ says Thomas Carlyle, ‘still stands in the Canongate, well known to the inhabitants there—a solid spacious mansion, which, when all bright and new two hundred years ago, must have been a very adequate lodging.’ ‘As soon as he came there, the Chancellor [London], the Marquis of Argyle, the Earl of Cassius, the Lord Burleigh, the Provost of Edinburgh, with many other lords and gentlemen, went to pay their respects to him; and the next day, the Earl of Cassius and Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston went to visit him on the part of the Committee of Estates, to know what he had to communicate to them. Cromwell presented them a writing, whereby he demanded that, in order to keep Hamilton’s party from being able to rise up again in Scotland, where they might embroil the two kingdoms, they would be pleased to order that none of those who had carried arms under his command, or who had consented to the invasion of England, should have any public employment in Scotland. The committee granted him that article.’ Such was the ostensible, and, as far as appears on any good evidence, the real business between Cromwell and the committee men. Bishop Guthry adds the vulgar royalist rumour: ‘While Cromwell remained in the Canongate, those that haunted him most were, besides the Marquis of Argyle, London the chancellor, the Earl of Lothian, the Lords Arbuthnot, Elcho, and Burleigh; and of ministers, Mr Band Dickson, Mr Robert Blair, and Mr James Guthrie. What passed among them came not to be known infallibly; but it was talked very loud, that he did communicate to them his design in reference to the king, and had their assent thereto.’

Cromwell was only three days in Edinburgh on this occasion. On Saturday, all business being adjusted, "when we were about to come away, several coaches were sent to bring up the lieutenant-general, the Earl of Leven [governor of the Castle and Scotch commander-in-chief], with Sir Arthur Haselrig, and the rest of the officers, to Edinburgh Castle; where was provided a very sumptuous banquet [old Leven doing the honours], my Lord Marquis of Argyle and divers other lords being present to grace the entertainment. At our departure, many pieces of ordnance and a volley of small shot was given us from the Castle; and some lords convoying us out of the city, we were parted." The lord provost had defrayed us all the while in the handsomest manner.’ Carlyle.

To the fall of this year is to be traced the origin of the term Whig, as applicable to a well-known party in the state. Burnet, who was likely to know the facts well, makes the following statement: ‘The south-west counties of Scotland have seldom corn enough to serve them round the year; and the northern parts producing more than they need, those in the west come in the summer to buy at Leith the stores that come from the north. From a word Whiggan, used in driving their horses, all that drove were called the Whiggamores, and, shorter, the Whigs.... After the news came down of Duke Hamilton’s defeat, the ministers animated their people to rise and march to Edinburgh; and they came up marching on the head of their parishes, with an unheard-of fury, praying and preaching all the way as they came. The Marquis of Argyle and his party came and headed them, they being about 6000. This was called the Whiggamores’ Inroad [strictly the Whigs’ Raid]; and ever after that, all that opposed, the court came in contempt to be called Whigs.’

We find John Nicoll, the diarist, in 1666, speaking of the west-country Presbyterians as ‘commonly called the Whigs,’ implying that the term was new. The sliding of the appellation from these obscure people to the party of the opposition in London a few years later, is indicated by Daniel Defoe as occurring immediately after the affair of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. The Duke of Monmouth then returning from his command in Scotland, instead of thanks for his good service, found himself under blame for using the insurgents too mercifully. ‘And Lauderdale told Charles, with an oath, that the Duke had been so civil to the Whigs, because he was himself a Whig in his heart. This made it a court-word; and in a little while, all the friends and followers of the Duke began to be called Whigs."

The time of the Whigs’ Raid, and from that to the execution of Montrose (May 1650), may be considered as that of an entire supremacy of the religious or rather ecclesiastical system for which the majority of the nation had been struggling for several years. The view of it taken by the royalists is sketched in strong terms by the writers on their side. ‘The kingdom groaned under the most cruel tyranny that ever scourged and afflicted the sons of men. The jails were crammed full of innocent people; the scaffolds daily smoked with the blood of our best patriots. The bones of the dead were dug out of their graves, and their living friends were compelled to ransom them at exorbitant sums. Such as they were pleased to call Malignants were taxed and pillaged at discretion. The Committee of the Kirk sat at the helm, and they were supported by a small number of fanatical persons and others who called themselves the Committee of Estates, but were truly nothing else but the barbarous executioners of their wrath and vengeance. Nor were they ill satisfied with their office, on account of the profits it brought them by fines, sequestrations, and forfeitures, besides the other opportunities it gave them of amassing riches. Every parish had a tyrant, who made the greatest lord in his district stoop to his authority. The kirk was the place where he kept his court; the pulpit, his throne, or tribunal, from whence he issued his terrible decrees; and twelve or fourteen sour enthusiasts, under the title of elders, composed his council. If any, of what quality soever, had the assurance to disobey his edicts, the dreadful sentence of excommunication was immediately thundered out against him, his goods and chattels confiscated and seized, and he himself being looked upon as actually in the possession of the devil, and irretrievably doomed to eternal perdition, all that conversed with him were in no better esteem.’

The moderates involved in the late expedition of Duke Hamilton for the king, were now brought to punishment. ‘They compelled every one that escaped to sit several Sundays in sackcloth before them, mounted, as a spectacle of reproach and infamy, upon the stool of repentance in view of "the elect," and to undergo such other penance as they were pleased to impose.’

Amongst the penitents was the Chancellor Earl of Loudon, of whom it was scarcely to have been expected that he should join in the Engagement. His submission is alleged by Burnet to have been enforced by his wife, a high Covenanter and an heiress, who threatened him with a process for conjugal unfaithfulness, ‘in which she could have had very copious proofs.’ So he made a public repentance in the church of Edinburgh, ‘with many tears confessing his weakness in yielding to the temptation of what had a show of honour and loyalty.’


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